The Antinomy of Godís Will and Manís Freewill
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come..." Revelation 22:17.
It has been commonly believed that man is free to choose in every respect of his life, including whether he chooses to be saved and serve God or he chooses otherwise. It is taken for granted that if he wants to be a part of the celestial family, all he has to do is to simply make the choice. He can come into heaven's household at any time it seems fitting to him. This stems largely, it seems, from having been taught that which he had always believed, primarily, that he is a free moral agent who can do as he pleases, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. If he decides that being saved from a supposed everlasting hellfire is better than a momentary life of sin, he can saunter through the golden gates after he dies.
If this were true, it would mean that every man, woman, and child is literally the captain of their own salvation. But the writer of Hebrews disputes this. He spoke very contrary to that ideology: "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Hebrews 2:10-11.
You see, Jesus is our souls' Captain unto salvation. If a man could be saved by deciding on his own to clean up his life, he would be the captain of his own salvation. In other words, he could chose when he wanted to be born of God. By his own thought and volition he could be conceived, born of the Spirit, sanctify himself, and join the ranks of God's heavenly host.
People, of course, do clean up their lives, go to church, and some are very active in much more; but this can be a self-made sanctification of sorts and no more than a show of godliness. This is not something that our Lord is proud of. It does not make them holy or set them apart from the spirit of the world. Their efforts do not cause them to be one in God, and He, therefore, does not unashamedly call them brethren as verse 11 states.
By knowing this, we could possibly cast a heavy shadow of disdain or pity over these misinformed people. Or perhaps they could be seen by some as being a little inferior to "the elect of God." But do be careful. Although discernment is a great gift, a critical spirit of judgment should be far from us. Moreover, none of us can be that which we are not, and neither can they. It is not possible for them be something other than that to which they were called, and neither can they see or hear if God is not speaking to them. They are where God wants them, and unless the Spirit of revelation rises in their hearts, they will remain right where they are. Even though they err greatly by thinking that man's will supersedes God's will, the freewill of their natural man can be quickly changed by the influence of the Spirit of Christ within.
There is no great mystery why they believe in error that it is up to them to be saved or not. For it is in their genetic makeup to believe they are the masters of their destiny, and in a sense they are, but certainly not when it comes to being made alive and sitting with Jesus in heavenly places. Men are free to choose evil while under the bondage of the carnal mind, if we could call that being free; but to chose that which is truly of God, it is far from them. They are not free to choose those things that cannot be perceived. They simply cannot go contrary to their nature which is that of a dead man.
Surely we remember reading that Jesus said to let the dead bury the dead. Since they are dead, neither can they be any more successful in choosing to live than those buried in the cemeteries nor as the first man before God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. Adam was completely formed, but his body lay cold and lifeless upon the earth's crust. At best, he was walking around as a dead man, spiritually speaking. There was no God-life whatsoever in that perfectly formed body. It, therefore, had no ability of its own to be anything that it was not. A good illustration is the corpse Lazarus. It had no ability to raise itself. Without the quickening of the Spirit, it lay lifeless and entombed until Jesus "...cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth." John 11:43. Likewise with the man who had been impotent, that is, feeble for thirty-eight years. He had no ability within himself to heed his own desires or the desires and words of anyone else. He was bound by the fetters of his pitiful body, and not until Jesus commanded him to take up his bed and walk was he set free. The power to heal or raise the dead had to come from He who had the power and life to make it so: "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you. Romans 8:11.
Can we not see the simplicity of this? Surely so; for it was by our Lord's Spirit that the dead was raised and the infirm made whole. Can we say any different with dead sinners in the tomb of today's world, whether they lay in sod covered graves or they walk the tombs of their carnal worlds? Of course not! And it has always been this way. There is nothing in anyone's natural makeup that affords them the ability to believe and have life on their own.
By man's descent into his state of sin and death, he lost all ability of will to do any spiritual good. He has been without the ability to salvage that which was lost. His mind, although wanting to do good and quell the wrath of a supposed angry God, can at best, and feebly so at that, etch out a facsimile of righteous appeasements which are very often rituals that afford nothing concerning spiritual matters. So as a natural man, being completely unable to do good due to being dead in sin is not able to convert himself one iota from sinfulness to holiness, from unrighteousness to righteousness, from death to life. It is strange that this simple fact which a child can understand is overlooked, ignored and/or vehemently denied by the religious minded who are (1) Hardwired To Lie to themselves. They are by all means prisoners to their own devices while freely exercising their will.
It is quite a mystery that man's unregenerated soul is bound, yet free; bound in respect of being a prisoner to his fallen, earthy state of being. Ignorantly, he is shackled by the chains of death, and yet still free in respect to his freewill. Ironically, he is found guilty because of being free to exercise all the desires of his heart which is contiguously evil; he is, therefore, sentenced to slavery, guilty of a crime induced by the exercise of his Freewill. There is a real dichotomy, a paradox; for on one hand he is free to be himself; but on the other, he is a slave to sin, and that first sin has grown from a sapling into a great tree which shrouds the whole world of man.
Man has tried from the beginning of his demise to revive his dead tree, but evidence shows that his attempts have all been futile. Through failure after failure he remains oblivious to the fact that before this can be done, it must be done by the one Who pronounced the sentence of death in the first place. It cannot be commuted by the one sentenced. For instance, if a man on death-row could exonerate and deliver himself from the gallows, then so could the first man, Adam, and all his generations thereafter. But such clemency does not come from the guilty who holds no authority. There is only one source of such authority, which is the one who is above all, with all authority over all, and who will in due season be all in all. This Tree that is on either side of the river, and in the midst of the street of it, is that which will bring forth good fruit to the world and with leaves that will heal the nations.
Yet we must know that nothing of this sort can commence without a new nature. There must be a new, circumcised heart to bring forth good fruit. Regardless of how powerful the will of religion is, or the determination of man might be, it is impossible for carnal entities to make their evil trees good. For they are enslaved to the nature in which all flesh is born. Man has liberty to bear fruit, but only the fruit of what that tree is. That is the law of nature that was imposed by the Creator: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth...the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself...and it was so." Genesis 1:11
The enterprising willpower of man's tree cannot produce fruit from a seed that is not in it. He can only yield the fruit from the tree by which he is born--every fruit after his own kind, and it is from this seed that he exercises his freewill and is thereby bound so tightly in sin.
Any gospel, so called, that relies upon an act of the human will for the conversion of sinners has missed the mark. Anyone who supposes that his or her will has the strength to save themselves is greatly deluded and far from our Lord's Kingdom; for only the inspiring, quickening, regenerating work of the Spirit of God can transform the tree of man.
Please hear this; unless God does something in the dead sinner, he will remain dead. Unless our Lord makes the heart clean and renews a right spirit within him, there is no hope of him coming to a saving change.
The freewill of man is always bound tightly in the grave clothes of the carnal heart, a heart which is deceitful and desperately wicked, so much so that no one can know it, as the prophet mentioned in Jeremiah 17:9. With such a fatal stroke of sin upon the center of man's being, there is no way he can by any means be made alive by his own efforts. The will to do that which is of God comes to pass by His power, and the Psalmist wrote something of this, saying that in the day of His power thy people will be made willing (Psalm 110.3).
It is truly a miracle when people are born from above and repent. It is such a profound and wonderful event that there is more joy in heaven over one of these than over ninety-nine just ones who need no repentance as Jesus said in Luke 15:7. And it would be good for us to keep in mind that every salvation miracle was not made possible by the will of men, but by the will of God! (John 1:13). To think otherwise would be the same as believing a baby could decide that he would like to be born, and pop, there he is in his mommy's womb, and his father has very little to do with it, if at all.
Not only this, we should also know that we can never believe or preach ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, into being a good tree that brings forth the fruit of God's life. Trees before us were not able to change themselves and bring forth good fruit, so why should we suppose we have such superior brains and hearts and can make it possible? There are simply no gimmicks, tricks, doctrines, or policies of men that can persuade and enable anyone to make a change from death to life. But our wonderful Lord, by His inward, secret, transforming power, can and will make all the trees good, the treasure chests good, and all the fountains and rivers good. Thus, all glory is to our Father and to the Lamb! Praise God! "Salvation is of the Lord." Jonah 2:9!
Is it plain or is it not, that man in his carnal state of being has no desire, will, ability, or anything else by which to save himself and reap the bountiful riches of God's Kingdom, that it is in the hands of his loving creator? Who can dispute that it is He who is always the author of changing one's heart, especially since He set him up to fall in the first place? We might wonder then, why would He admonish everyone to go against his elemental nature? And why would man be held accountable for his words and deeds when he cannot help himself? Could it be like scolding a dog for not acting like a man?
We might think that if a man cannot do good, it would be unjust to punish him for not being good. Furthermore, if a sinner cannot repent without the divine influence and power upon his heart, we might also think it strange that God would commanded all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
Jesus said that in the day of judgment men will be held responsible for their words "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Matthew12:36-37. Yet in verse 34 he tells the same men that they cannot speak good words because they are bound by the evil that is stored in them, so if the nature of their tree is bad, so is the fruit that comes from it. It is a universal law. One species cannot at will change to another. Therefore, why such a rebuke to a tree that is only producing fruit according to its nature? My, oh my! This is really getting sticky. Should we stop rowing, pull in our oars, and withdraw ourselves far away from these uncomfortable questions and impenetrable walls of stalemate? Such would be an easy out; but we are not a people who merely float down the meandering river of lifelessness. Not by any means. Therefore, we will boldly go where others of the high calling have gone before us, and today, we will continue with that which we have been discussing, and it has a name. It is called -- (2)antinomy.
The Antinomy of God's Will and Man's Freewill
Innumerable questions arise concerning man's freewill; such as: how can a person be free to choose, although his choices are by an inherent nature that stem from his imprisoned soul? How can he be held responsible for that which he is otherwise powerless to do or be? Would such be an unjust demand, especially from the all knowing, understanding God?
Until now we had thought that He is always just; but it might seem that He would not be if He requires people to do something which they have no ability to do. If this were truly the case, God then, would be unjust by requiring them to do the impossible. However, if He gives them the ability to perform what He requires, He is not unjust. And when His Spirit blows through their hearts, they are made very able to do that which He requires; yet some dig in their heels and obstinately refuse the call from on high. This, however, can be short lived; for the Spirit always wins regardless of how deep people's hearts are set in stone and are hellbent on a life of self-serving lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
Be that as it may, time and again, we have heard people question God's goodness and integrity. Many have Him as a heartless despot, a rogue of the most cruel kind. It is not uncommon for them to bring reviling charges against Him, declaring that He is unjust, and that the only reason people bow before Him is to escape what they believe to be an eternity in hell. With some, sadly, this is most likely so.
Notwithstanding, sickness, death, war, pain, incest, rape, robbery, murder and all manner of lawlessness have swept the world, and more questions arise: "How can this be? How did it come about?" The simplest of all answers is--SIN! All of it came about by man's SIN--plain and simple! How else did the prodigal son find himself (3)feeding pigs? It was by living in the sin that he chose of his own freewill. Period! His father did not put him in that deplorable place. The man was responsible for reaping what he had sown. And his father allowed it by not forcing him to stay home. Therefore, since he was free from his father, was he free? Only in the manner that man is free to do as he wills, but in so doing, he is a slave to his carnal nature.
Concerning this, it has been taught that everything is of God, which includes not only the good things of life, but every sin, sickness, and heinous act committed by the most evil despot of the world. The belief, of course comes from a statement Paul made in his second letter to the Corinthians. He said: "And all things are of God...." 2 Corinthians 5:18. However, upon closer examination, we see that the context of the verses and the Greek tense of certain words speak of all the new things mentioned in the previous verse are of God. (rf. The Beginning of The End of All Things, Publication #178.05 free upon request).
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. For I believe whole heartedly that it was in God's immutable plan not only for Jesus to die a horrible death, but also for man to take the course he is upon. If we really believe that God made man like he is, and then condemns him for being what God made him, as Calvinism teaches, perhaps we should curse God and die. For such a God as this would be a monster par excellence. But rather than God making man evil: "Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" Ecclesiastes 7:29.
Yet, let us understand that there are times when certain ones are not permitted to go the way they would choose. We know that children would quickly stray if their parents had no restraints nor guidelines of life set upon them; so it is with the young in the Lord. There are those lacking spiritual understanding who have gone the way of the world who must have bridles and bits applied to their lives, and this is certainly for their own good. Some have, however, gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward and who are undesirable spots in our feasts as Jude 1:10-11 relates, or as dead flies in the apothecary's ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:1). There are times when they must be restrained for the good of the many. The Psalmist spoke of this restraint: "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." Psalm 32:9. The best way to be guided is in verse 8: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." It is much greater to be (4)"a meek horse" than one that requires bit and bridle. Psalm 32:8.
Who but God, and those to whom the apocalypse of this mystery is given, can fully understand how something that He knew before it came to pass can be freely performed by man? Whether we can grasp or agree with it or not, God has always had the foreknowledge of everyone's actions, along with this, they still have freewill. He knows what they will be doing, there can be no deviation whatsoever, and commands men to do what they seemingly do not have the will or ability to do, since they can only act according to their nature.
Let us notice in the realm of physics an example of what an antinomy is, and it has to do with light. There is credible evidence that shows light consists of waves; however, there is evidence just as credible that shows it consists of particles, and the law of physics does not give room for this. Light can be one thing or the other. It cannot be both. We cannot understand how light can be both waves and particles, but the evidence is there. So neither view can be ruled out in favor of the other, nor can either be explained in terms of the other. The two seemingly incompatible positions must be held together, and both must be embraced as being true, and so it is with the antinomy of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.
Let us also notice again Lazarus. He did not have the will or the ability to raise himself. He could not obey his friend nor respond in any way to His command; that is, had the Spirit not breathed the breath of life back into him. The Holy Spirit was the factor that delivered Lazarus from death. Neither his corpse, his soul, nor his spirit decided on its own or collectively to live; but when the Spirit-filled words of Jesus resounded from the Throne, the impulsion of life surged through every cell, sinew, and vein of his decomposing body.
Notwithstanding, man in his natural state of being can freely think and do as a prisoner to the carnal mind. There seems to be no limit to the heights he has scaled or the depths he has plumbed; yet he is not greater than the sea that has limits. For that matter, typically speaking, he is the sea, and the sea has (5)limitations. He has freewill until he comes to the boundaries set upon him, and in the midst of his will he is responsible for his actions that have always been known by the omniscient God. Both of these thoughts are laid out in the Bible. For instance, concerning Jesus and His executioners: "Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death." Acts 2:23.
This leaves no doubt that the crucifixion of Jesus was foreknown and planned, and neither friends, foes, governments, bleeding hearts, demons, nor all the men in the world could keep Jesus from his appointment with the cross. Even though it was predetermined by our sovereign God, Stephen minced no words in charging them as wicked men for acting according to their nature. I suppose it was similar to a rattlesnake having the nature to strike a rat and swallow it, and no one condemns it for being a snake and doing that which is natural in order to exist. However, if it transgresses its boundaries and strikes our children while playing in the back yard or living room of the home, that thing that had been tolerated previously is now condemned and put to death. Thus, Jerusalem and that corrupt nation was also destroyed in A.D. 70 by Titus.
It is not uncommon for God to put these two points side by side and without apology or explanation. Here is an apparent contradiction and seeming conflict that is expressed in a prayer: "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. Acts 4:24-28.
First, these men are charged for committing a grave injustice upon an innocent man, of which, they are held responsible. At the same time we see that God is the one who planned it before they ever disgraced this world with their evil presence.
If we examine these two points separately we will conclude that from one end of the Bible to the other that it teaches God is one hundred percent sovereign--sovereign in creation, sovereign in redemption, sovereign in judgment, and sovereign in providence. We also find that from Genesis to Revelation man is one hundred percent responsible for his sin, and that he always reaps many times over that which he sows.
Therefore, we have no recourse than to believe both are true, yet without an apocalypse by the Holy Spirit, our finite minds are not able to reconcile the two. Some, I know, can reconcile them better than my feeble attempts, but even so, I believe a great mystery will probably remain.
What, then, should one do with this antinomy? Namely, whether it is comprehended or not, accept it for what it is, and refuse to engage the thought that one must be true and the other false; think of the two principles as, not rival alternatives, but, in some way you do not grasp at the present, yet they are in some way complementary to each other. Be careful, therefore, not to set them at odds against each other, nor to make deductions from either that would annul the other. Use each within the limits of its own sphere of reference and content. Note what connections exist between the two facts and their two frames of reference, and teach yourself to think of reality in a way that provides for their peaceful coexistence, remembering that reality itself has proved to contain them both. This is how antinomies should be handled, whether in nature or in scripture; that is, until understanding comes in breath taking apocalypses dawn that dissolves the night and brings the day. This, as I understand it, is how modern physics deals with the problem of light, and this is how Christians should deal with the antinomies of biblical teachings.
Now, do we not stand in need of teaching that humbles man, strengthens faith, and glorifies God? I believe so. Although we do not understand all of His mysteries, there is a time when the Apocalypse of our Lord Jesus Christ will eclipse our limited vision, and we will see all things as they are rather than as our natural minds perceive them. There will be no questions of how all things in Him fit so perfectly together. There will be no antinomies with which to worry our weary minds.
I like what Charles Spurgeon said when he was asked to reconcile this antinomy of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility: "I never try to reconcile friends--they are both in the Bible." Amen!
To be continued...
Elwin R. Roach
1. rf. Publication #224.10,free upon request http://www.godfire.net/apocalypse_22.html
2. Antinomy: "A contradiction between two statements that seem equally reasonable."
3. Feeding pigs: An analogy of lowering oneself to the same level of the most carnal nature of men and ministering to them from that realm rather than remaining and ministering from the heavens to his brothers and servants of His Father's house.
4. meek: see http://www.godfire.net/inthebeginning12.html , http://www.godfire.net/inthebeginning13.html or hard copy booklets free upon request)
5. "When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth." Proverbs 8:29 (NASB)
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